WISCONSIN - Would Lincoln Hills youth prison work as an adult rehab center?
Last week Democratic Representative Evan Goyke of Milwaukee announced plans for a series of bills that he hopes will reform the corrections system in Wisconsin.
"This is a problem that we cannot ignore," said Goyke.
Between overcrowding in adult prisons and a low number of juvenile inmates, Goyke wants to create changes in Wisconsin.
"Repurposing Lincoln Hills has the ability to solve both crises with one solution," said Goyke.
Lincoln Hills School and youth prison in Irma has the potential to hold about 500 inmates. As of this week the population is 137.
Goyke says a big factor in the vacancy is cost.
It cost $292 per day to keep each inmate in Lincoln Hills in July. The county that the inmate is from pays that cost. In September, that cost rose to $390. In July 2018, it will rise again.
"So what's going to happen in future years is that counties are further incentivized not to send juveniles to Lincoln Hills because it's become far more expensive," said Goyke.
Goyke wants to send juvenile offenders to regional facilities that are based on levels of risk, like maximum security and minimum security, then turn it into a treatment facility for adults.
"Treatment is critical, there are 5,900 men in prison that have been found to have an alcohol or other drug addiction that have been found eligible to receive treatment behind bars. And those 5,900 are on a waiting list for a spot in the prison," said Goyke.
Wednesday, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said he's support Goyke's idea if the state had an option in place for serious offenders.
Goyke based his bill on solutions other Republican majority states have used in their prison systems like New Jersey and Michigan.
Even so, Governor Scott Walker has some concerns.
"Right now there isn't a physical location for those individuals and it's something that maybe long term the state could look at, [but] it would have to be part of a process. You can't make that change unless there is a viable alternative," said Walker.
While it's an issue of treatment and rehabilitation, it is also largely an issue of cost.
Lincoln Hills is already set up similarly to a low risk adult prison, so there wouldn't be the high cost of building a whole new facility.
"We face some very expensive decisions, or we can engage in the types of reforms I've proposed to avoid those costs," said Goyke.
Goyke presented the bill last week to a group in the Capitol. Now other legislators can look at the bill and choose to become a co-signer or not. The deadline for co-signing is Friday.